By Karis Rogerson
In light of the larger than originally forecast snow fall this weekend, New York City officials offered additional information about the city’s preparedness and made recommendations for New Yorkers to successfully ride out the winter’s first snowstorm.
“At 8 a.m. [Saturday], I’ll be declaring a local winter weather emergency for New York City, and that will stay in effect until midnight Saturday,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference Friday. “It simply clarifies to the public that any unnecessary driving should be [avoided]. Make your plans to not be on the streets of the city tomorrow and I would say Sunday as well.”
The National Weather Service recently updated its forecasts for the storm. It is now predicting that New York City will receive between 12-18 inches of snow this weekend and that winds will reach up to 55 mph. The original forecasts were for six to 12 inches.
Those predictions could, however, change. In addition, a coastal flood warning has been issued for areas in southern Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn and an advisory for northern Queens.
In the run-up to the storm Thursday, de Blasio urged citizens to remain inside, announcing a travel advisory.
“When the storm hits, it is crucial for people to stay off the streets to the maximum extent possible,” he said. “If you need to move around, use mass transit to the maximum extent possible.”
Subways will continue to run, according to MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Pendergast.
“We will make every effort to keep our services up and running so that our customers can get to where they need to be,” Pendergast said.
That said, the MTA announced a list of equipment it would use to fight the storm, including 10 snowthrowers — machines that can throw snow up to 200 feet — and 7 de-icer cars — subway cars with the ability to scrape ice off the rails. The MTA also mentioned which outdoor subway lines are most vulnerable to bad weather: the Rockaway A, Sea Beach N, Flushing 7, Brighton BQ and Dyre Avenue 5.
De Blasio spoke Friday of the preparations city agencies were undertaking to be ready for the storm. More than 2,300 Sanitation workers will be on hand for two split shifts of 12 hours each. More than 300,000 tons of salt are ready to be poured onto the streets, and almost 1,800 snow plows are lined up. In addition, the Fire Department has close to 100 tow trucks ready to clear the streets of cars. Finally, 200 arborists are on hand to respond to hazardous tree issues. City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia pointed out that trash pick-up would not be available over the weekend, but residents would be given updates when it resumed regularly.
Mayor de Blasio urged New Yorkers to keep their cars off the streets as much as possible.
“This is their responsibility and their mission to stay off the streets,” de Blasio said. “It’s so the streets can be made clear for Sunday and Monday and save lives if anyone is in danger. It’s the moral thing to do, but it’s in the self interest for every New Yorker.”
Once again, the mayor reassured the public that his office and that of the governor are in close communication in order to avoid a mishap like the one last year, when the governor closed the subways with little forewarning to the mayor’s office. The storm never materialized.
“There’s a high level of coordination,” he said. “The MTA and the state will make the ultimate decision, but we will be in close communication.”
The mayor also encouraged New Yorkers to watch out for each other.
“I want to ask all New Yorkers to look out for your neighbors, the most vulnerable among us,” he said. “Check in on your neighbors. If you see someone in distress, call 911 immediately so we can do something about it.”
He invited citizens to call 311 immediately if there are unresolved issues with hot water or heat.
“We’re going to constantly keep you updated,” de Blasio said.
“[We are] ready to meet this challenge and keep New Yorkers safe,” the mayor said.